• Troops have been helping states with testing and logistics
  • Some lawmakers and governors have sought an extension into the fall fearing a second wave as winter approaches
  • The guardsmen were first activated March 13

President Trump said Thursday he would extend National Guard deployments to help fight the coronavirus pandemic through mid-August. Deployments had been scheduled to terminate June 24.

Both Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, had supported the extension.

Lawmakers and governors have been urging Trump to extend his emergency declaration. Funding for the guard had been scheduled to run out June 24, one day before the 90 days needed by guardsmen to qualify for certain military retirement and education benefits.

The deployment costs an estimated $9 million a month for every 1,000 troops, the National Council of State Legislatures estimates – a cost states are ill-equipped to handle as the pandemic drags on. By early afternoon Thursday, it had killed nearly 101,000 Americans.

Trump activated the troops March 13.

About 46,000 guardsmen have been deployed across the United States to help with testing and logistics.

A group of 70 House members this week urged the president to extend the deployment even further, warning the pandemic will stretch beyond summer.

“We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to go,” Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., told Politico. "Let’s make sure our troops are there when we need them.”

Experts have been predicting a bleak winter as coronavirus and the flu rage in tandem.

The National Guard Association of the United States this week urged Congress to approve a pending measure that would ensure six months of healthcare coverage after deployments end, something already available to guardsmen on foreign missions but not those deployed domestically.

“These soldiers and airmen are on the front lines of our nation's worst public health crisis in more than a century,” retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson said in a statement. “It would be unconscionable to send them home to their families without medical coverage.”